Chase the Wind by Cindy Holby
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5114-1
***
It’s been a while since I read the term “sweeping saga” applied to a historical romance. New author Cindy Holby packs a lot of story into Chase the Wind, a novel that is really two separate romances. Neither quite satisfies, for very different reasons.

Gifted horse trainer Ian Duncan loves Faith Taylor, but his employer’s son, wealthy, cruel Randolph Mason, drives them apart. Ian returns to find that Faith has been sold into an engagement with Mason by her father. Ian convinces Faith to run away with him on the eve of her marriage. After a clandestine wedding, they head west to Iowa Territory where they will homestead. Their only possessions are a splendid horse, a carved box, and a wedding-ring quilt.

Fifteen years later, Ian and Faith are still in love and their family now includes thirteen-year-old twins, James and Jenny. Their homestead produces quality horses. Then Randolph Mason finally catches up with the Duncans. The twins witness the murder of their parents, and soon Jamie and Jenny are on their way to an orphanage. Here they are abused by a priest and form a friendship with an abandoned Indian boy named Chase the Wind. When Jenny is sold to a pioneer family, Jamie and Chase escape from the orphanage and try to find her.

Well, they try for a while, but then they give up and get jobs on a ranch as cowhands, and it’s Jenny who ends up tracking them down when she shows up on the ranch looking for Jamie. At this point the novel begins to resemble a soap opera. The rancher’s spoiled daughter, Cat, loves Ty, a cowhand, but Ty is intrigued by Jenny, who isn’t sure how she feels about him. Chase loves Jenny but she doesn’t know it, and Jamie is having an affair with an older woman whose past is a soap opera in itself. Tune in tomorrow.

The rest of the novel deals with all these young and restless types trying to sort out their love lives. The villain reappears to kidnap Jenny, the climax is requisitely brutal, and the villain’s comeuppance satisfyingly savage. If there’s a single image that will linger with readers, it’s Chase’s revenge on Randolph Mason.

Ian and Faith just don’t occupy enough time in the book for their romance to be fully engaging. Their story is rushed, much of it presented in a flat narrative style, and their murder just as readers might be starting to bond somewhat with them is jarring. In this regard, fulfills the expected plot elements of the “historical saga” sub-genre. Initial sympathetic characters meet a bad end to set up the revenge plot for the next generation, and the villain makes appearances only when nasty things are necessary to drive the plot forward. It wasn’t too hard to guess what would happen next.

As for Chase and Jenny, frankly, they’re just not very interesting. Perhaps it’s because we are forced to watch them grow up onstage. Jenny in particular seems clueless a lot of the time. I’m no fan of literary navel-gazing, but here was a heroine who would have benefited from some introspection. As for Chase, since he never attempts to make his feelings known to Jenny and basically worships her from afar for most of the book, it’s hard to work up any sympathy for him. The rest of the secondary characters are left hanging, more or less, though there are hints that Jamie may get his own book.

Chase the Wind is an adequate historical saga, but there’s little here to lift it above the humdrum.

--Cathy Sova


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